How to Clean the Outside of a Desktop PC - dummies

By Dan Gookin

The dust and pet hair that clings to the exterior of your PC are easy to locate and clean up. Even the keyboard and monitor can be cleaned with relative ease, using things that are probably already in your home.

Clean the surfaces

Generally speaking, you can wipe down the outside of the console, mouse, printer, monitor, and keyboard using nothing more than a dry cloth. For some items, but not the monitor screen, you can wet a paper towel with household cleaner, such as Formula 409, and then do some rubbing to remove any buildup.

  • When using liquids to clean the outside of a computer, avoid spilling liquid inside the computer. Wring out that sponge!

  • Do not spray cleaner on the computer case; instead, first spray it on a paper towel and then clean the case.

Clean the console vents

The most important things to clean on any computer are the air vents on the console. Air must circulate inside the box or the computer’s components get too hot. That’s when problems start. In fact, cleaning the air vents on your PC is probably the best way to prevent computer woes.

The computer has two sets of air vents found on the front and back. Clean both. You might be able to clean them out by hand, but a vacuum cleaner is probably a better option. An air can works, but don’t blow the gunk into the console.


  • The console is the main PC box. Some folks call it the CPU, though that term is incorrect. Nope, it’s the console, the main box into which all computer goodies plug.

Clean the keyboard

Use a vacuum cleaner to de-crud the keyboard. The vacuum more adequately removes the debris from between the keys than a can of air does, which merely blows the stuff around. For intermediate crud, use tweezers.

Sometimes, it helps to turn over the keyboard and give it a good shake. Be prepared for gross stuff to come out.

The best way to avoid a dirty keyboard is to not eat while you use the computer.

You can clean keycaps by using a pencil eraser. Keep in mind that the more you use a computer keyboard, the more likely it is that certain key cap labels wear off. If you use a pencil eraser to clean key caps, take a vacuum to the keyboard immediately afterward to rid the keyboard’s guts of eraser stubble.

Clean the monitor screen

The traditional glass or CRT monitor is easy to clean. Spray some standard glass cleaner on a paper towel and then rub the monitor’s screen. Just don’t get any of the cleaner inside the monitor. As long as you spray a conservative amount of cleaner on the paper towel, you’ll meet that goal.

Cleaning an LCD monitor is trickier because not only should you not spray anything on the monitor, you also need to avoid using alcohol or ammonia to clean the thing. The best way to clean an LCD monitor is to use an LCD monitor-cleaning kit. For general cleaning, a lint-free or microfiber cloth works fine. In fact, your monitor may have come with this type of cloth.

  • Clean a monitor when it’s turned off. That way, you can best see the screen.

  • Watch Video 342 to see a cleaning of a LCD monitor. Video 642 shows cleaning of a CRT monitor: